Understand the speed limits in Ireland and drive safely
Advice for visitors driving in Ireland is essential, as driving in an unfamiliar country can be a scary experience. However, a little bit of research and arming yourself with the correct road safety knowledge is all it takes to be prepared to drive safely within the speed limits in Ireland.
Speed limits in Ireland
Speed limits are generally the same in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. However, in Northern Ireland, the speed limits are indicated in miles, while in the Republic of Ireland, they are shown in km/h. You will notice that many cars sold in Ireland have a counter indicating two different speeds. Here are the different speed limits imposed on Irish roads (limits always marked in numbers):
Motorways - 120km/h
National Roads - 100km/h
Regional Road - 80km/h – the general maximum limit
Urban areas - 50km/h or 30km/h in areas with special limits
Road signs in the Republic of Ireland
The signage is not very different from the signage in the UK. However, there may be some differences that sometimes are not necessarily clear. Here is some key information:
Green signs are used for national roads and major towns.
Blue signs indicate motorways.
White signs are used for smaller regional roads and towns.
The brown panels indicate tourist or heritage sites.
The speed is not limited from one road to another or when passing through towns, like in the UK. On a two-lane national road, the speed limits in Ireland are generally regulated at 100km/h. Nevertheless, there are many indications for school outings or places where you have to adapt your speed well in advance.
Information is often indicated on the roads in Ireland, such as a big white "SLOW" in places where it is advisable to reduce your speed. Schools are also sometimes indicated on the ground with a "SCHOOL AHEAD": do not miss this important information!
Many places in Ireland use road signs in Gaelic, the Celtic language spoken in the country before English took over. The destination is written in capitals in English and then in Gaelic below.
There are also 100% Gaelic areas where English no longer exists (also known as the Gaeltacht). It's a good idea to know the name of your destination in both languages to avoid confusion. The Gaeltacht Areas Orders establish the Gaeltacht boundaries, 1956–1982, and are in the counties of Cork, Galway, Donegal, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford.
The Highway Code
The Irish Highway Code is an important book all drivers in the country should read, whether residents or tourists. We strongly advise making the time to read it before your departure. If you are already there, you can find a copy of the highway code in tourist offices, so do not hesitate to ask for one. You can also find all the information online. In the meantime, here are some of the main rules to remember:
Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and passengers.
Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to sit in the front seats.
The alcohol limit allowed is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 0.35g/litre of exhaled air. Never take the risk of driving after exceeding this limit because penalties can be severe.
Traffic offences such as unauthorised parking or speeding are generally sanctioned by a fine (the payment period is 30 days).
Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear a helmet.
Parking rules in Ireland
The double yellow lines at the roadside indicate that stopping and parking are strictly prohibited. It is also the same case for road edges painted with a red line. A solid or dotted yellow line indicates parking is subject to parking time restrictions. You will usually find a sign nearby indicating the parking time conditions.
You will also notice that many Irish cities offer very little free parking. So always have some change with you to pay for the parking meters. Some free car parks are governed by parking meters or discs. Parking discs are available from the local authorities and petrol stations. However, if you're only in town for a day, it might not be worth buying a book of discs. They aren't actually discs but are small paper parking tickets. A parking disc needs to be displayed clearly on the dashboard, and it only lasts a couple of hours. Finally, when you park, always remember not to display your valuables, especially in the streets of large cities.
Tolls in Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, there are about ten major toll roads. They are generally found around major cities like Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. Motorway speed limits in Ireland are 120km/h, while dual carriageways and national roads are limited to 100km/h. You'll come across tolls on these Irish roads:
M1 Motorway (Gormanston to Monasterboice Toll Road)
M3 Clonee-Kells route (Clonee-Dunshaughlin)
M3 Navan-Kells route (Dunboyne-Dunshaughlin)
M4 Motorway (Kilcock–Enfield–Kinnegad)
N8 (Rathcormac–Fermoy Bypass)
Dublin Port Tunnel (Dublin-M50)
Limerick Tunnel (River Shannon-Limerick outskirts)
N25 Bypass (Waterford City)
You can check the price of each toll road by going to the website of the National Road Authority, the body in charge of Ireland's motorways and driving routes. Note that the M50 toll in Dublin is only regulated by surveillance cameras that scan your license plate. You must then make payment later (until 8:00 p.m. the following day) using one of three payment methods:
Online payment: make a credit card payment on the eFlow website.
Pay over the phone: 0818 50 10 50 from an Irish phone or +800 50 10 50 11 when calling internationally.
Cash payment: visit one of the Payzone locations throughout Ireland. They are usually found in service stations and local shops or supermarkets. Thanks to the pink and blue Payzone logo, you can identify the outlets easily. You can also use the Payzone store locator app to find a nearby outlet.
Licence and Insurance
It is entirely possible for you to drive your car in Ireland with a European licence, which allows you to drive in all countries part of the European Union. If you obtained your licence outside the EU, it would only be valid for 12 months after entering the country. Before leaving for Ireland, do not forget to contact your insurer. They can inform you of certain insurance conditions in case of an accident or dispute abroad. Examples include:
Seatbelts: everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt at all times. In addition, children under the age of 12 are not permitted to sit in the front passenger seat.
Mobile phones: it is illegal to use a handheld device whilst driving, but you can make hands-free calls.
Driving on single-lane rural roads: use "passing places" correctly, and do not hesitate to line up.
Irish passing places
If you plan to go off the beaten track (in Ireland, it would be a pity not to), you will almost inevitably end up driving on minor roads, where it is impossible to meet oncoming traffic. However, don't panic! Every 100 metres or so, there is a space on the left shoulder where you can pause and cross paths. The Irish call these 'passing places.' Sometimes it's just a patch of fairly stable grass. Other times, it's a stretch of road that has been widened and tarred, like in the photo below.
When you meet a driver on these roads, one of you will have to pull over and use the passing place, allowing the other to pass. If you have the visibility and see a car coming towards you, pull over into the next passing place you find (because you don't know when the next one will be, and if you enter, you risk being blocked face-to-face, with the obligation for one of you to reverse) and wait for the other car to pass. The other driver may do the same. In this case, they may flash their headlights to indicate that you can pass first.
When crossing, remember to acknowledge the driver to be polite. Please don't be tempted to park in any passing places. If necessary, stop for a minute to take a picture or admire a landscape, but don't stop for too long, as it could be inconvenient for other road users.
Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Besides the speed limit, remember to keep an eye out for road signs and consider the weather. Always drive safely within Ireland's speed limits, so you and others can enjoy the ride!